In a key case seeking justice for victims of extraordinary rendition - the policy of outsourcing torture - the Justice Department under President Obama stated that it would continue to use the "state secrets" privilege to attempt to bar five victims from seeking justice in U.S. courts. Join us today to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to stop abuse of the state secrets privilege to cover up criminal behavior and torture and keep the claims of torture victims out of court.
In the case, Mohamed et. al. vs. Jeppesen Dataplan, Inc., filed by our allies at the American Civil Liberties Union, five victims of extraordinary rendition, including current Guantanamo detainee Binyam Mohamed, filed suit against Jeppeson, a flight-planning company and subsidiary of Boeing, that is alleged to served as the CIA's contractor for its program of extraordinary rendition, flying them to secret sites and other countries where they were tortured.
The Justice Department lawyer who appeared on behalf of the government in the case stated that the change of administrations had produced no change in the government's position. The government continued to argue that the case be thrown out because revealing evidence of torture would reveal "state secrets."
Binyam Mohamed was subject to horrific torture in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Morocco, subject to beatings that resulted in unconsciousness and broken bones. His body, including his genitals, were sliced with a scalpel and hot liquids poured on his wounds, and he was threatened with rape, electrocution and death. He remains in Guantanamo today, uncharged with any crime.
In its first real test case, despite campaign pledges to halt abuse of the state secrets privilege, the Obama administration has chosen to continue the Bush administration's policy of secrecy before justice. The Bush administration invoked the State Secrets privilege more than any other administration in history to keep embarrassing cases out of court. The question is, when will Obama roll back the illegal expansion of executive power he has inherited?
The state secrets privilege allows the head of an executive department to refuse to produce evidence in a court case on the grounds that the evidence is secret information that would harm national security or foreign relations interests if disclosed.
Instead of merely employing the privilege to deny attorneys access to evidence (as it was used in the past), the Bush administration used the state secrets privilege far more than any administration in history to get courts to dismiss cases at their very beginning stages, and to avoid accountability for criminal behavior. Click here to learn more about the state secrets privilege.
Now, the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder and President Barack Obama is continuing on the same dangerous path.
Mohamed, a British resident, also filed suit in British courts, seeking 42 documents that reveal the nature of his treatment in detention. The judges in the London High Court concluded that the documents were necessary and essential to Mohamed's defense and established that Mohamed had been tortured. However, the judges ruled that the case would have to be closed because the United States government had threatened to end its security cooperation agreements with Britain if this information was disclosed, a position the court noted had not changed following the inauguration of President Obama.
Please join us today to send Attorney General Holder a message asking him to end the abuse of the state secrets privilege to cover up torture.